The results of a recent study by researchers at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health is creating high hopes for states with medical, and recreational, marijuana laws. The results explain that states with medical marijuana laws report fewer traffic fatalities than states without them. There is an across the board average reduction of 11 percent fewer traffic fatalities.
While the study could not reach this conclusion, a senior author on the study suggests that the lower fatality rate could be associated with the substitution of marijuana for alcohol among younger drivers. Additionally, researchers found that drivers in states with medical marijuana have lower rates of drivers who believe driving after drinking is okay. This study in no way suggests that driving under the influence of marijuana is safe, or even a safe alternative to driving drunk. Driving while high on marijuana can still lead to a DUI, or worse.
Best Results For Younger Drivers
Despite the shocking overall results of the study, one aspect that seems to make sense is the age group that saw the most significant reduction in traffic fatalities: 25-44. The researchers explain that the 45 and over demographic was less effected by the marijuana laws.
Additionally, because most state medical marijuana laws require patients to be 21 years old to qualify, the 15-24 age group results were likely impacted. In the 15-24 year old age group, researchers found an 11% reduction in traffic fatalities; 12% in the 25-44 year old group; and 9% in the 45+ year old group.
Trends Can End
Researchers aptly pointed to a few states where the number of traffic fatalities has actually increased since medical marijuana laws have been passed. In both California and New Mexico, after initial drops of over 15%, the number of traffic fatalities began to increase again.